We promised to share with you the stories of our BooBees, women across Manchester who have been personally affected by breast cancer, these women will help raise awareness & educate. Paula Eardley highlights the importance of requesting gene testing should you have a family history this is her story…
Paula was refused a mammogram because she wasn’t old enough & was diagnosed with aggressive breast cancer six months later. She had even tried to pay privately for the screening after losing her mother to the same disease three years earlier. But again, the mum-of-one from Westhoughton was told no, because she wasn’t classed as ‘high risk’. That was in the November. The following May Paula discovered a lump on her breast. Her GP told her it was probably ‘just a cyst’, but referred her for further testing anyway. It was then the now 50-year-old was dealt the devastating news she had aggressive grade three breast cancer – and it had spread to her lymph nodes.
Paula underwent a mastectomy, as well as six months of gruelling chemotherapy and radiotherapy before being placed on a hormone therapy drug designed to prevent the cancer from returning.
She is now 10 years on from her diagnosis, but strongly believes she should never have been refused the screening in the first place, given her family history. “I think if I’d had it the cancer would have shown up and there’s a chance I may not have had to have a mastectomy,” she told the Manchester Evening News . Her sister Carol now undergoes regular check-ups here at the Nightingale Centre. With three daughters between them, the women decided to undergo the BRCA gene test to find out if the disease was genetically-linked.
The blood test uses DNA analysis to identify harmful changes from the BRCA 1 or BRCA 2 genes, which as well as breast cancer, can also increase the risk of ovarian cancer, as well as a man’s chances of developing male breast cancer and prostate cancer.
The results were negative in Paula and Carol’s case, but researchers have recently identified more than 100 other genes which could impact a person’s risk. Paula and Carol are currently awaiting the results of further tests as part of a research study – https://preventbreastcancer.org.uk/breast-cancer-research/research-projects/gene-research/epigenetic-silencing-of-brca2-palb2/
which also looks at factors such as lifestyle, breast density and family history to determine a person’s risk of developing the disease.
Do you have a family history of breast cancer?
If so, your GP may refer you to a regional family history clinic for advice, support, information about national studies and early screening.
People without a personal history of breast cancer may be referred to a family history clinic if:
- A first-degree relative has been diagnosed with breast cancer under the age of 40
- A first-degree male relative has been diagnosed at any age
- One first degree and one second degree relative have been diagnosed at any age
Referrals to family history clinics may be possible if any of the following is present in the family, in addition to any relative having a prior diagnosis of breast cancer:
- Bilateral breast cancer
- Male breast cancer
- Ovarian cancer
- Jewish ancestry
- Sarcoma in a relative under 45 years of age
- Gliocoma or adrenal carcinomas
- Complicated patterns of multiple cancers at a young age
- Two or more relatives with breast cancer on the father’s side of the family
Note that a first degree relative is only defined as a parent, sibling or child. Second degree relatives include grandparents, aunts, uncles and half siblings.
“There are so many people slipping through the net,” Paula added. “If you test positive for the BRCA gene you are monitored from an early age.“
“I tested negative, so they didn’t deem me high risk, but it still could be genetic and that’s why the research Prevent Breast Cancer is doing is so important. It can save people’s lives.”
Paula is now backing ‘BreastFest’ – a month long campaign raising awareness & fundraising to make Greater Manchester the most breast cancer aware region in the country.
“I turned 50 this year and 2019 is also my 10th anniversary year since I was diagnosed. I want to work with Breastfest and Prevent to make a real difference for our next generation and to spread the word about the wonderful research that is taking place in Manchester that will truly save lives. Early diagnosis is key – if any ladies notice anything odd they must seek immediate advice and not wait till it’s too late.”
BreastFest is aims to inspire & educate with a number of exciting events in October. Equipping all with the different risk factors related to breast cancer, make them aware of the symptoms, and also the importance of getting to know and checking their own breasts regularly – as well as attending screenings. Paula’s story shows the importance of being aware of who is entitled to have NHS gene testing.